On the night of May 14, 2010 16-year-old Bronx resident Kalief Browder was walking home from a party. He was stopped by police and “identified” by a stranger as a robber. Despite the lack of any evidence whatsoever, Browder was put in prison where he remained for three years. He missed the birth of his cousin, holiday after holiday with his family, and his high school prom. After three years in a cage he was suddenly released. All charges had been dropped. Even though Browder is suing the city, and even if he wins, his life will be forever changed. He will never get those missed years back.
The case has naturally been met with media and public outrage. How could this happen? How could our justice system make such a profound and life shattering mistake? How can we fix this? Some will argue that reform is necessary, while others will argue that some government agents are going to need to lose their jobs. For anarchists, though, only one solution will suffice: Abolition of the police institution and the state at large.
To understand why abolition is the only viable option, it is important to understand the history of the police in the United States. There are two main starting points for the institution. In the north police were primarily used for controlling workers who might otherwise revolt against the political class. In the south they were primarily used for catching escaped slaves. Both of these, coupled with the aggressive criminal monopoly of the state, meant an evolution directly leading to such cases as Browder’s imprisonment and worse. Since such an institution is well beyond any hope of reform, how do we destroy it, and what do we replace it with?
There are a variety of tactics for resisting and replacing the state, but the one I favor most is agorism. One thing I like to ask people when debating the validity of the state and its monopoly on security is this: How do you think the police would behave if we could simply call and cancel our accounts? How inclined would they be to imprison a teenager if they were fully accountable for their actions due to market forces and social pressure? I would wager that they would behave differently. Not because of some magnanimous spirit that didn’t exist before and not just because we could put them out of business, but because we could also go after them as the criminals they are. Those two elements, market forces and social pressure, are largely missing from the current paradigm. Stripped away from the false virtue of statism, they are nothing but people who do their jobs poorly at best, and murderously at worst.
Sadly, there will continue to be more like Browder who watch years of their life tick away as the criminal political class and its soldiers kidnap, torture, imprison and kill innocent people. The way we stop them, the way we fight them, is by taking away the illusion that they are the only option for a secure and free society. They are violent criminals, and they have no place in a free society.